Sunday, March 3, 2013

Nice to meet you, Shanghai

It’s official; I have lived in Shanghai for one week!  Admittedly, this city is probably the easiest for a North American to adjust, but China will always have its ancient, bizarrely charming ways.  I’m constantly amazed and finding new things, but I’m also gaining a comforting sense of familiarity, whether it be buildings, traffic patterns (basically a lack thereof) or the same street vendors.  Orientation week with CIEE was fantastic because students had a chance to meet each other and Shanghai. 

After a mildly traumatizing proficiency test on Wednesday (didn’t recognize the majority of the written characters, pausing and forgetting throughout the speaking), I was relieved to discover I’m in Intermediate I Chinese this semester.  Not bad for being out of class for two years!  I picked up my books Thursday, and I have two enormous course readers with articles for Issues in Chinese Society (Monday afternoons) and International Relations (Wednesday afternoons).  My Thursday seminar on Living and Learning in Shanghai fortunately has no text. 

CIEE organized an Amazing Race Shanghai to inspire some friendly competition amongst students and have them practice taking public transport around the city.  In most cases the locations were not easily identified on a map so we had to ask locals!  It was a glorious day to run around the city (lots of stares with my skirt without tights), though my team called it quits after the second stop; we were more interested in Starbucks and the ritzy shopping mall.  Oops!
My Amazing Race team at the first stop: me, Ines from Indiana U., Emily from my school, Du from Penn State and Kat also from my school!

Friday was kind of odd because the weather flipped on us, staying rainy and bone-chillingly cold.  I was exhausted and we were instructed not to eat because of a medical exam for a multiple visa adjustment to our passports.  This will allow us to come in and out of China, but the process was iffy: blood sample, chest x-ray, ultrasound?!  The blood portion wasn’t too great for me because I have low blood pressure and it just was not filling the tube quickly.  Well, I hope my body gave them the results that they wanted.  After an incoherent dinner due to my exhaustion, I climbed into bed at 7:30 without changing and slept for 12 hours.  That was probably the first full sleep cycle that week..!

And why haven’t I been sleeping, you may wonder?  Jetlag for one, but I’ve also taken advantage of not having class by going out to bars and clubs with the other students!  It’s quite exciting because the city has such a diverse nightlife available any day of the week.  These clubs have been so posh and I still can’t believe how their cover and coat check are free!  What I can I say, I’ll do anything to dance and have a good time, even if that means taxi rides home at 3 AM. 

This weekend was great.  My host mom graciously gave me a tour of Old Shanghai on Saturday afternoon.  We went to Yuyuan Gardens, which is also a shopping plaza; East Nanjing Road for shopping; toured the Bund to view Pudong (still need to return at night for the lights); Jing’an Temple (for the mall not the temple, have to go back there too); and South Shaanxi Road.  Initially she was showing me the quitessential Shanghai landmarks, but then it turned into a hunt for new shoes and leather jacket for me!  I realized this week that if I’m going out at night, I need to dress the part a bit better (L.L. Bean boots and slip-on sneakers aren’t quite cutting it)!  Persistence, patience and humor paid off: on Shaanxi Road I not only found shiny black heels, but also the leather jacket down the road!  Jinawen (my host Mom) haggled the boutique merchants down and I ended up paying satisfying price of about $83 between the two things.  They were negotiating in buzzing Shanghainese while I was trying to hold back my smile.  Soon I’ll give haggling a shot, because it was already a better shopping experience than going to the mall!  I loved the bonding time with my host mom, then Satruday night I gave my new clothes a test run with my classmates at KTV, or Chinese Karoke.  That was an absolute riot.
 Steamed soup dumplings are a Shanghai specialty.  I can't wait to try them.

 Yuyuan Garden.  This city is full of fascinating intersections of new and old..
 Apparently I need to come back in the evening because Yuyuan will look completely different!
 Panoramic shot of Pudong from the Bund.
Government buildings and banks that emulate architecture styles from around the world.  This could easily be found in NYC or D.C.!

Imagine that 20-30 years ago, this was all a country field.
 The KTV crew in our lounge, plus nearly 10 others!

Sunday felt like a typical slogging, tired day as we mentally prepared ourselves for the first week of classes—except that we’re in Shanghai.  I ran a few errands with Emily, who also lives in this apartment complex, then we sat in a field on campus to enjoy the sun and do homework!  Kat joined us as well and we had a marvelous time watching and interacting with the locals.  A Chinese toddler hung out with us a bit and I also tried playing frisbee with a girl and her father.  Although we didn’t necessarily go far nor do a lot, it felt like living; effortless, content living. 
People sprawled throughout his dead grass-hay field.
This boy was charming except he kept coming up to push me. 

After studying my butt off and waking up too early to write more characters and complete this blog post, I am psyched to start classes!  Let’s see what another week brings (aside from amazing food)!

Listening: "Crazy Love, vol. II" by Paul Simon

1 comment:

Stephanie Crown said...

Love it!! Best wishes!~:))